Driven by the need to tackle the misconception held by many high-end brands about young people not being able to afford a wealthy lifestyle, 27-year-old Aileen Gilani quit her law degree to turn her lifestyle blog – The Luxury Student – into an online private members club for students “who seek the finer things in life.”
With a membership of over 500 students and graduates since its launch in 2017, The Luxury Student club gives its young network a ritzy VIP lifestyle and exclusive networking access with top luxury brands.
Founder Aileen Gilani’s desire to create a digital platform for this “untapped market” was inspired by her own university experience, in which she felt that “luxury brands didn’t consider the younger generation as a serious client or consumer”.
“Creating the concept for me was the easy part, as it’s an untapped market that I wanted to try out”
“I fell into the world of lifestyle blogging. It was through blogging that I discovered a niche market of students with a passion for high-end brands and luxury living.
Most of my family are in the medical industry or a science field, so in all honesty, there wasn’t much luxury.
It wasn’t until I went to university and began blogging that led me to understand luxury as a lifestyle trend.
After graduating from Oxford Brookes, I didn’t know what to do next. I wanted to start my own business, but I wasn’t ready, so I decided to study Law as a postgrad.
But it didn’t feel right from the get-go, so I started to blog my luxury experiences and new life in London.
I was inspired by the luxury lifestyle some of my classmates led, even be it that they were wealthy international students.
Although I couldn’t necessarily afford luxury bags, I was able to resonate with my classmates and their reason behind purchasing luxury goods.
I realised that it wasn’t always the products but more the experience of buying it – that to me was a really interesting insight.
My luxury blog wasn’t that successful so, after in-depth strategising, I put a halt to my blogger platform in July 2016, as I believed the business concept behind The Luxury Student had greater potential.
I then spent the following year brainstorming, developing and perfecting my business brand.
In September 2018, I relaunched The Luxury Student as a private members club for like-minded students and young people who seek the finer things in life.
We have several partnerships with brands such as Maiyet, Harvey Nichols, Lucy Choi, and The Perfect V, and we provide exclusive access and benefits to students interested in luxury items, brands, restaurants, and events.
I want The Luxury Student to help strengthen the relationship between students and high-end brands, as students are often overlooked by them.
We provide the brands with new customers, who are members of our TLS community and then those brands provide my members with luxury products, which helps them maintain their lifestyle.
The main benefit is that our members are able to network with the founders or executives of our partner brands where they would not usually be able to.
And this is very useful for our members who are looking to work in the industry and gain experience.
We are currently re-branding and now adapting our membership offerings – one suitable for future luxury entrepreneurs – and it’s going to provide a brand-new layer to our platform.
The new membership will be targeting an audience not only looking for luxury benefits but also industry and professional opportunities within the luxury industry.
Creating this concept, for me, was the easy part as it’s an untapped market that I wanted to try out.
Back at university, luxury brands didn’t consider the younger generation as a serious client or consumer, which is why this has been such a fun challenge to represent the student market in this way.
In the beginning, it was very difficult for many people to take me seriously.
Throughout the journey of building my business, I’ve received unpleasant comments like ‘dumb’, ‘materialistic’ and ‘I should get a real job’.
But these didn’t affect me in a negative way. Instead, it motivated me to grow my business for the better.
At times I felt like a one-woman show, which placed me in situations where I felt powerless. Now I have an amazing team and support system.
“If your original business model doesn’t work, move onto the next one. If the service you provide doesn’t work, develop a better service”
The decision to drop out of the career route that I had started with, which was hospitality and then Law, was probably the best decision I could’ve made for my business.
As an entrepreneur, you are the boss, the brains and the believer. You are the person that everyone is looking at and it’s challenging but very rewarding.
The beauty of running a business is that there is always room for improvement.
If your original business model doesn’t work, move onto the next one. If the service you provide doesn’t work, develop a better service that works.
You must think big and brainstorm all the different ways to expand your brand.
I think partnering up with other brands is essential to success because you are helping each other grow.
Even if it’s a small collaboration, it makes a big difference and will help a lot in the long-term.
I used my long-term passion for luxury and business to create something to help students and young people live the lifestyle that I was struggling to acquire during university.
My topline advice – Just start and then keep going.”